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May 25, 2013

Is capital punishment uniquely unfair to jurors required to make life/death decision?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new AP article headlined "Arias trial jury foreman says death decision unfair for 12 average people who aren't lawyers." Here are excerpts:

They were 12 ordinary citizens who didn't oppose the death penalty. But unlike spectators outside the courthouse who followed the case like a daytime soap opera and jumped to demand Jodi Arias' execution, the jurors faced a decision that was wrenching and real, with implications that could haunt them forever.

In an interview Friday, jury foreman William Zervakos provided a glimpse into the private deliberations, describing four women and eight men who struggled with the question: How heinous of a killing deserves a similar fate?

"The system we think is flawed in that sense because this was not a case of a Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson," Zervakos told The Associated Press. "It was a brutal no-win situation. ... I think that's kind of unfair," the 69-year-old added. "We're not lawyers. We can't interpret the law. We're mere mortals. And I will tell you I've never felt more mere as a mortal than I felt for the last five months."...

Zervakos described a deliberations room full of tears and spinning moral compasses as each juror struggled to come to grips with their own beliefs about what factors — including Arias' young age at the time of the killing and her lack of criminal history — should cause them to show mercy and spare her life.

"You've got Travis Alexander's family devastated, that he was killed, that he was brutally killed. You've got Jodi Arias' family sitting in there, both families sitting and seeing these humiliating images and listening to unbelievably lurid private details of their lives, and you've got a woman whose life is over, too," Zervakos said. "I mean, who's winning in this situation? And we were stuck in the middle."...

"You heard (prosecutor Juan) Martinez say she was only 27. ... She's old enough that she should have known better," Zervakos said. "I didn't look at it that way. I'm looking at 27 years of an absolutely normal everyday young woman that was living a life that was perfectly normal. Then something changed the trajectory of her life after meeting Travis Alexander, and it spiraled downhill from there."

The same jury on May 8 convicted Arias of first-degree murder in Alexander's killing, but couldn't reach a decision Thursday after about 13 hours of deliberations on whether she should live or die. Judge Sherry Stephens was forced to declare a mistrial of the penalty phase and dismissed the panel. A conference with the judge and attorneys is set for June 20 to determine how both sides want to proceed. In the interim, Stephens set a July 18 retrial date.

The mistrial set the stage for a whole new proceeding to determine whether the 32-year-old former waitress should get a life sentence or the death penalty for murdering Alexander five years ago....

Prosecutors now have the option to take the death penalty off the table and avoid a new penalty phase. The judge would then determine whether to sentence Arias to spend her entire life behind bars, or give her life with the possibility of release after 25 years. Given Arias could not afford her own defense, taxpayers footed the bill for court-appointed attorneys at a cost so far of nearly $1.7 million, a price tag that will only balloon if the case moves forward.

Should the state decide to seek death again, jury selection alone could take months, given the difficulty of seating an impartial panel in a case that has attracted global attention and become daily cable TV and tabloid fodder with tales of sex, lies and violence, said jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius. "Will it be impossible? No. Will it be tough? Absolutely," she said.

Recent related posts on the Arias case:

May 25, 2013 at 10:51 PM | Permalink


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/// "The system we think is flawed in that sense because this was not a case of a Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson," [Jury Foreman] Zervakos told AP... I think that's kind of unfair … We're not lawyers. We can't interpret the law. We're mere mortals.”

“Martinez [said] ... [s]he's old enough that she should have known better … I didn't look at it that way. I'm looking at 27 years of an absolutely normal everyday young woman that was living a life that was perfectly normal. Then something changed the trajectory of her life after meeting Travis Alexander, and it spiraled downhill from there." \\\

No chance for the death penalty with such a daft buffoon as the Jury Foreman. According to the mere mortal known as Zervakos,
Arias deserves not the death penalty due to formidable reasons, including:

}-- The tender age of the unprovoked murderer;
}-- The normalcy and everyday nature of the “young” murderer;
}-- The undefined 'something' that changed her perfectly normal life’s direction;
}-- Meeting Travis Alexander [the ambushed, unarmed VICTIM, Mr. Zervakos];
}-- The unfair fact that this case did not feature Dahmer or Manson [hmm: Could you not read a caption on a TV with less than a 50” screen? Is anything under a blue whale, but plankton to you?];
}-- The earthbound, finite, non-interpreting, non-lawyerly nature of Mr. Zervakos & fellow jurors.

Mr. Zervakos, I am sorry that your family did not remain in Ellas; perhaps you can reclaim your heritage by joining the Communists
for their next attempt to set the Parthenon alight, or in demanding money from Germans. Perhaps in such a fairer land with a
flawless justice system you may yet attain the preternatural status of an interpretive lawyer. If not, try China.

Posted by: Adamakis | May 26, 2013 1:00:17 AM

Doug: Is capital punishment uniquely unfair to jurors required to make life/death decision?
Adamakis: Not if all the jurors are bloodthirty killers like me and Bill and Jodi.

Posted by: Daniel | May 26, 2013 1:47:24 PM

Would that make jurors who recommend a life sentence a bunch of kidnappers? Or those who recommend restitution a bunch of extortionists?

Posted by: MikeinCT | May 26, 2013 2:27:58 PM

Adamakis, I'm sure hope you're never selected as a juror.

Posted by: Mindy | May 26, 2013 3:40:14 PM

Daniel --

I see you say that I'm a "bloodthirsty killer" like Jodi Arias.

Two questions. First, is being a bloodthirsty killer better or worse than being a necrophiliac, which is what you have called me previously? Second, since a "killer" is someone who has killed a person, would you please produce the evidence that I have done such a thing?

Thanks so much!

P.S. I see that the liberals who're so outraged that the quality of the comments section is tanking because federalist sometimes calls a judge a "hack" have no criticism whatever when Daniel makes the insane charge that Adamakis and I are "killers." My goodness.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 26, 2013 9:50:20 PM

I think that the central problem in this case is that it was aired on television and made into a media circus. I think that defense lawyers should go to all possible methods of keeping video cameras out of court trials. In fifty years folks will liken Scopes to Jodi Arias and with no kind words for the judge, the prosecutor, the media or the defense counsel who did not object to the media circus.

Posted by: liberty1st | May 26, 2013 10:30:57 PM

Bill, these turkeys can't win a debate--all they have is a "look down their noses" attitude at those of us who support capital punishment. It's easier to call us names than engage. They cannot intelligently debate the moral issues involved with yanking the rug out from underneath victims' families; they cannot intelligently deal with the terrible crimes of Kenneth Macduff; they cannot deal with legal arguments about the incompetence of Judge Frost or the "wise [sic] Latina." Personally, I don't really care what these lightweights have to say about me. They can call me whatever names they want. They think it's cute to call me "bloodthirsty." (Of course, what of those bien pensants who think that we ought to release violent criminals onto the streets? They put lives at risk. Yet people think them moral and enlightened.)

Just last week, a beautiful young woman was killed on LI as a result of the predations of a career violent criminal. Any reasonable person would have thought that this miscreant should have been incarcerated as a result of his previous crimes---but libs in NY have this idea that we shouldn't punish all that hard. And a young woman is dead. So who is bloodthirsty? Me? You? Or the enlightened twits that gamble with innocent people's lives? And speaking of gambling with innocent people's lives, what about the "patriot" we have in the WH. The "patriot" thought is was a good idea not to deport Haitians back to Haiti after the earthquake. Fair enough, we shouldn't deport people into a humanitarian disaster--but the constitutional law scholar (notice how the "patriot's" resume gets inflated) forgot that as a result of O'Connor and four liberal justices on SCOTUS, we couldn't hold Haitian criminals past a few months. So, they were let go. And at least three people died at the hands of a Haitian criminal. But I am the bloodthirsty one. Whatever guys.

Posted by: federalist | May 26, 2013 10:45:08 PM


It is not an insane charge. Do you dispute that the death penalty is killing? Do you support the conspiracy rule, that people are jointly liable for the actions of their co-conspirators? Everybody who supports the death penalty is morally liable for the killing done under that standard. That includes me; I'm a killer since I have stated before that I support the death penalty in limited circumstances.

Your real objection (I think) is my description of you and others as "bloodthirsty" because you would apply the death penalty to a wider range of offenses and/or circumstances than I would. I suspect that term revolts you based upon what Ericka would call the "yuck factor" but in reality it simply expresses the limitations of my own mind. I cannot find a rational reason for why you or adamakis enlarge the scope of activities that fall under the death penalty to such a large degree so I invent an irrational explanation and "bloodthirsty" seems fitting, at least in its symbolic aspects.

Posted by: Daniel | May 26, 2013 11:01:25 PM

| “I cannot find a rational reason for why you or adamakis enlarge the scope of activities that fall under the death penalty to such a large degree so I invent an irrational explanation and "bloodthirsty" seems fitting, at least in its symbolic aspects.” |

Is it that she didn’t kill with enough frequency, i.e. slay a number of innocent victims?

Is it that her victim wasn’t an infant, or youngster, or an oppressed minority? [I almost typed “baby” until I realized that you likely view him/her as merely part of a woman’s body or the mother’s unique prerogative outside of the law.]

Is a total of 27 unprovoked knife slashes, a close quarters gunshot to the head, and the ear-to-ear throat slitting of the victim
insufficiently aggravating to you?

Do the false denials, changing stories, obstruction, and undisputed remorsefulness not compute in your sentence calculation?

Furthermore Daniel & Mindy:
Has (1) my alleged “bloodthirsty[ness]” incapacitated my analytical ability so thoroughly that I can only mindlessly reach the position that
Arias has earned a death sentence, or (2) has your prejudice precluded a fair evaluation of the facts of this case and any possibility that
Arias is death worthy?

Posted by: Adamakis | May 26, 2013 11:55:03 PM

By virtue of the legal immigration of my ancestors to this amazing country, such as J Rosenfeld & S Adamakis,
the invaluable contributions of my parents to my existence, the blood of American patriots, and my felony-free deportment,
I have earned the right to jury participation. [Some –- other than CAIR, Code Pink, or Moveon.org -- might say that I personally sealed
it in Iraq & Afghanistan.]

Should you pursue a career in government within perhaps the next 3 years, you may find an unprecedented opportunity to keep the Tea Party,
conservative, pro-life, pro-Israel Jewish, Christian groups
, and me from equal participation in the political process. I would especially recommend the IRS, DOJ, or FBI at present. [Assisting certain SCOTUS justices is increasingly effective to boot!]

Posted by: Adamakis | May 27, 2013 12:17:10 AM

In what bizarre post-apocalyptic world would a man teaching evolution be compared to a vicious murderer?

Posted by: MikeinCT | May 27, 2013 1:29:13 AM

MikeinCT --

The normal use of the English language would appear to have been suspended on this thread. Yikes.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 27, 2013 9:22:42 AM

I would like to see a single example of someone from the abolitionist camp describing a murderer discussed in this forum as a "bloodthirsty killer."

Posted by: Tarlsqtr1 | May 27, 2013 9:45:43 AM

TarlsQtr1 --

That's because they AREN'T bloodthirsty killers. For that matter, they're not killers at all. As anyone knows who's followed this site for a while, any evidence of guilt was planted by the cops in order to further their racist designs and keep the boot on the underclass. DNA testing will prove she's innocent, as it does with everyone else!

Gads, TarlsQtr1, you need to keep up with the comments.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 27, 2013 10:30:15 AM

"Bloodthirsty" implies a desire to kill simply for the sake of killing. That isn't me. That isn't Bill. Personally, I wish that we didn't have to have capital punishment. I won't apologize for being proud of a society that has the moral courage to express its outrage at the murderers by concluding that they have forfeited their right to live.

Posted by: federalist | May 27, 2013 1:03:54 PM

Our system requires average people to take the life and death of others in their hands in various ways, including jury duty and militia service/the military. Some rather not. They want some other people to take the responsibility. Not our system. This includes jurors who have to settle complicated civil matters. If you are totally against the death penalty and cannot hand it out or find killing immoral, there is a conscientious objection exemption there.

I do not find those who support the death penalty as such "blood thirsty," if they carry it out with some degree of care and understanding. I might disagree with them in various cases and not think they are showing the proper respect for life on a philosophical basis overall. But, I realize there is reasonable debates on such questions like abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia etc.

I have noted this in the past, including when being sneered at.

Posted by: Joe | May 27, 2013 1:25:53 PM

Joe, you get sneered at because your posts generally elevate triteness to an art form. As for this post, it's mostly throat-clearing

Posted by: federalist | May 27, 2013 2:43:55 PM

Federalist sneers at me, says I said something empty but doesn't actually manage to substantively respond and if there is one, there has to be some name calling. This leads even those who agree with f. to be tired with such antics. OTOH, since even Prof. Berman has been the target of such vitriol, I'm in decent company.

Posted by: Joe | May 27, 2013 9:34:57 PM

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